A Guide to the Tibbe Key
The tibbe lock was invented by John McTibbe in the late 1900s. Standing on the slopes of Mount Rose, Nevada, John contemplated which ski run to take, one of the steep slopes or a shallow one. It was then that he created the concept of the tibbe key in his 14 year old genius mind. A distant cousin to Henry Ford and step-brother to Mary Jaguar, John was able to convince car makers to use his lock design from roughly 1997 through 2013 in many Fords and Jaguars (see chart at bottom of this article).
The lock itself is quite interesting, as it depends on aligning 6 or 8 rotary discs, so the sidebar is free to fall into the open position, allowing the lock to turn. During picking, each individual disc needs to be rotated in the correct position for this to occur. Picking such a lock requires a very unique looking lock pick, which can be intimidating at a glance, but quickly mastered with a little bit of patience.
HOW TO PICK A TIBBE LOCK:
If you're just trying to get the door or trunk open, you can just use the Magic Tibbe Pick. Just stick it into the lock and turn, turn, turn until the lock turns open.
The Tibbe Decoder Set, made by Original Lishi, looks like a pick and is called "the tibbe pick" by a lot of people. Technically, it is picking the lock, but if you use the tool to turn the lock, you're going to break the tool; and no, your distributor is not going to give you your money back. Please don't open the lock with this tool. Keep reading.
HOW TO DECODE A TIBBE LOCK:
If you need to actually create a working key blank, you'll need to use something like the Tibbe Decoder Set, made by Original Lishi. The pick has 6 pairs of legs, and each of them will need to be rotated to find the correct depth of that position. Your first step will be to find the #4 cut disc (and there will ALWAYS be at least one #4 cut disc) and this can be done by twisting on every single leg until you find the one that resists any turning pressure, and absolutely will not move. Apply firm pressure on the #4 disc in the direction the lock is to open (typically counterclockwise). What you've effectively done here is given yourself a tension tool. Now you can proceed through all the other positions while gently applying constant counterclockwise pressure on the #4 disc, until all remaining discs have been picked. The process here is to simply move all the remaining legs until they offer resistance. You'll know you did it correctly because the lock will turn, just like picking any other type of lock. The following video will demonstrate the concepts discussed here.
Once the lock is decoded, DO NOT turn the lock open. Cut a key.
- Never use a tibbe pick on the ignition or trunk as the tool is highly likely to bind.
HOW TO DECODE TIBBE KEYS:
If you're just making a COPY of a tibbe key, you will probably need to visually decode the original key using your eyeballs. We are unaware of any electronic key machines that can decode a tibbe key, so if you're duplicating one, you'll have to do it the old fashioned way. Luckily, because there are only 4 depths, and depth 1 is a NO-CUT, that's a very easy thing to do. We are talking about 6-cut tibbe keys for Ford and Jaguar, but the older 8-cut is very similar.
Just get your key, perhaps use a magnifying glass or use your smart phone to zoom in close, and refer to these tips and pictures below.
- Any spaces with a depth of ONE are extremely easy to see because it's a NO-CUT, meaning the key is uncut and totally flat in that area.
- Any spaces you see where the cut goes all the way down to the side corners are a FOUR
- That leaves only the TWO and THREE depths to figure out, and you should be able to compare the remaining cuts on your key to see which is which.
- Sometimes it helps to focus on the bottom of the cut and see how much of the space was left uncut on the rounded side of the key.
- Click on the image below to see an even larger view
If the key is abnormally worn, decoding visually could be more tricky, of course, but it's still totally doable.
Working on an 8-cut Jaguar key? It's even simpler because there are only THREE depths. If you can't eyeball that, I don't know what to say.
HOW TO CUT TIBBE KEYS:
Each machine is a little different, but most involve typing in the cuts and then turning the key to each position a ton of times.
The 3D Pro and 3D Elite machines from Laser Key Products is unique in that they move not only the X and Y axes while cutting, but also the Z. What this results in is a MUCH easier and faster key cutting process. You simply type in your cuts, click cut, and it does all 12 cuts for you. Then turn the key over and click cut again. With other machines, you potentially would need to turn the key and click cut up to 24 times for one 6-cut key!
Note that the only automatic key machines we know of that can cut both 6-cut and 8-cut tibbe keys are the 3D Pro/Elite machines from Laser Key Products, the Triton machines from Lock Labs, and the Black Widow from American Key Supply. As far as we know, all of the others can only cut 6-cut tibbe keys.
- Key codes for tibbe keys are "direct read", meaning that the code is really just a list of cuts. For example, if the code you purchase is "132431", then you enter your cuts into your machine as 1-3-2-4-3-1, bow to tip.
Still can't figure it out? Take some GOOD QUALITY pictures at different angles and give us a call.
VEHICLES IN THE US WHERE TIBBE CAN BE FOUND:
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